For a tasty “local girl makes good” story, look no further than Amy Lebrun.
Lebrun was executive sous chef when Lido Bottle Works restaurant opened more than two years ago in Lido Marina Village. After Chef Joel Harrington, who helped launch Lido Bottle Works, left for an out-of-state job a few months later, Lebrun transitioned to executive chef and has never looked back.
Born and raised in Huntington Beach, Lebrun studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley before returning to Southern California to work in the kitchens at The Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel, The Resort at Pelican Hill, 24-Carrots and Wyndham Avenue of the Arts.
Lebrun has quietly built a loyal following that appreciates her cooking style that focuses on fresh produce and fish, with flavor combinations that are familiar yet unique. Alternately subtle and bold, her dishes are born of the seasons, awaken the senses, and ultimately drive diners through the Lido Bottle Works doors.
Doing things quietly is changing for Lebrun, who is one of three chefs nominated for Chef of the Year at the Golden Foodie Awards, to be held Sept. 29 at the Marriott Resort in Newport Beach.
Lido Bottle Works is open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, which Lebrun says is “cranking. We attract people who enjoy good tasting food and creativity.”
She thrives on seasonal dishes.
“Every day we do a Lido catch, we can change a dish every day. I like to use an ingredient while it is fresh, while it lasts. Stone fruit we have for four months. It is in our ketchup, in the burrata, in my duck dishes. I get 60 pounds of it a week at the Farmers Market right here in Lido Marina Village,” Lebrun said.
Lebrun also sources fresh produce at her gardens in Santa Ana and Costa Mesa, as well as The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano.
Thanks to her multitude of ingredients, Lebrun is planning a menu change in a few weeks as she transitions into fall dishes.
“I know what I am doing season after season,” she said. “There are a lot of things not on the menu because they’re not in season. You won’t find one tomato in this restaurant come October. That is my mind set. I want to work that way. I want to serve only what is in season. In December I will not have bluefin tuna. When it is here, it is bountiful. Once it’s gone, I will move to the next thing.”
And the “next thing” is often found at the Newport Beach farmers market, held every Wednesday from noon to 5 p.m. Lebrun uses about 30 percent of the farmers market in her restaurant.
“There is Chone hot sauce, Sunny Cal Farms, a couple of others that I choose product from. I feel privileged,” she noted. “A lot of top chefs come here to get their stuff. When I see a chef from another area, I say ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’ The reputation is great, that is why chefs come here. I am proud of the sourcing we have done for this restaurant.”
“I am living the dream. I’m good,” Lebrun added. “My fingers are like roots, they get planted. I have good resources. This is a chef’s paradise. Our refrigerator is small; no room for a lot of things, so we serve the freshest of the freshest. Nothing sits longer than two days.”
Since we met on a Wednesday, Lebrun and I strolled over to the farmers market to peruse the produce and other items. She spent a few minutes at the Sunny Cal Farms stand sampling fruit, chatting with the owners about what was in season and what was to come, and selecting a basket of items to take back to her restaurant.
Naturally, I was curious about how she used the items in her cuisine, so Lebrun had me try her burrata dish, which includes a smoky nectarine puree, toasted hazelnuts and citrus vinaigrette.
“This dish has all the stone fruits — pluots, nectarines, peaches, plums, and a fruit that’s a cross between a cherry and a plum,” Lebrun told me. “I add a little bit of lettuce and frisee, put the burrata on top, and serve it with crispy lavash chips. Hazelnuts add texture, and I use some flowers from our garden. It’s a perfect summer dish.”
Perfect it was, and fresh. The flavors of each fruit married well with the burrata, and the lavash and hazelnuts added a nice crunch. The homemade peach puree is fantastic.
For my lunch entrée, she suggested the crispy Jidori chicken sandwich, which she said is the best-selling item on the lunch menu.
“I marinate a boneless, skinless chicken breast in buttermilk, add Thai curry and Indian curry, plus garlic, the bread it so it’s crunchy, and add some spice with coconut cilantro aioli. It comes on a potato semolina bun,” she explained.
I added a side of house fries with peach chipotle ketchup. Good call on my part — the fries are lightly coated with spices, and addicting when dipped in the ketchup. The chicken portion is generous, and exactly as Lebrun described: Crunchy, tender, spicy, and totally delicious.
“Everything is made in house and from scratch,” Lebrun confirmed. “Some restaurants use a few ingredients in their dishes, I use more. Some people might want a basic burrata dish, but I don’t do basic. There’s a lot going on there.”
And there’s a lot going on at Lido Bottle Works, thanks to Chef Lebrun.
For reservations and more information, visit LidoBottleWorks.com or call (949) 529-2784.